Warm Welcome Greets Chicago Seven

CHICAGO -- The aging warriors whose anti-Vietnam War protests convulsed the Democratic convention in 1968 returned in triumph "to the scene of the crime" Sunday and were welcomed by the mayor whose father set the police on them.

It was a case of letting bygones be bygones on the eve of the first time in 28 years that the Democrats have dared to hold their national convention in the Midwest's largest city, so brutal was their reception the last time.

Mayor Richard Daley welcomed Tom Hayden, Bobby Seale, David Dellinger and other surviving members of the group known as the Chicago Seven to a three-hour reconciliation rally and songfest.

Moments after the fully clothed cast of "Hair" sang "This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius," the mayor stepped up to a barely lit podium not to offer an apology, but a welcome -- something his tough, no-nonsense father would never have done.

"You are welcome today. We can't bring back Martin Luther King Jr. or Bobby Kennedy. We can't change the past, but we can learn from it ... The challenges of today are too great to keep fighting the past," he said, referring to two heroes of the 1960s assassinated that same year, 1968.

The rally was sponsored by the Nation magazine and the mayor skipped out as quickly and as quietly as he could -- long before giant images of police beating demonstrators were shown.